240 million trees. 1,000 mothers and babies. How two Seattle Pacific alumni are restoring trees, health, and hope in Madagascar

Most of the news coming from Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the hardest hit by climate change, is not good. In January 2020, the island country off the east coast of Africa experienced deadly heavy flooding; for decades the island has been devastated by deforestation and overharvesting; and several animal species exclusive to the area are facing extinction. 

But two Seattle Pacific University alumni are working tirelessly to bring reforestation, health, and hope to the island.

One of the largest reforestation projects in the world is happening in Madagascar, led by Jamie Shattenberg, a 1999 SPU biology major. Born and raised as a missionary kid in Madagascar, Jamie is the international director for NGO Eden Reforestation Projects in Madagascar. To date the project has planted move than 240 million trees and employs more than 1,200 men and women working on large-scale restoration work in the devastated ecosystems on the island.

Alissa, a licensed midwife and family nurse practitioner, founded the Sarobidy Center to help address the lack of trained doctors and midwives resulting in a high rate of Malagasy women who die in childbirth (an estimated 1 in 45.) The free-of-charge comprehensive prenatal clinic offers health and childbirth education, laboratory testing, sonography, and medications and vitamins. To date, more than 1,000 women and babies have received care at the center.

The Shattenbergs founded Red Island Restoration with the goals of bringing health and healing to impoverished areas of Madagascar and supporting Malagasy leaders. Their ministry supports reforestation (in partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects), health care for pregnant women and their babies, and a partnership with local Malagasy women to sell handmade crafts online.

The Shattenbergs are the Seattle Pacific University 2020 Alumni of the Year, and will be recognized at this year's Alumni Awards Dinner on February 8, 2020.

Posted: Monday, February 10, 2020